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TV Review: Richter controls the funniest new sitcom

Friday, November 29, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Fox's "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" premiered to critical applause last spring, but its ratings disappointed.

'Andy Richter
Controls The Universe'

WHEN: 9:30 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

STARRING: Andy Richter, Paget Brewster


Sunday after "Malcolm in the Middle," the comedy returns with only one problem, the same disadvantage the series had last year: It's on the wrong network.

Fact is, "Andy Richter" is too smart for Fox. Alongside NBC's "Scrubs," it's the funniest new sitcom in years. Actually, that's where it belongs: alongside "Scrubs" on NBC's Thursday night lineup. That would be the ideal home for this sophisticated comedy and its cast of characters that rival the "Seinfeld" gang for selfishness and pettiness.

Scheduling "Andy Richter" after "Malcolm" is Fox's best effort to give the series a strong lead-in. "Malcolm" is also the only show on Fox's schedule that even comes close to matching the inventiveness and skewed humor of "Andy Richter."

Problem is, "Malcolm" draws a lot of kids who will probably have no patience for "Andy Richter," making it an uphill ratings battle for this worthy comedy.

The series returns in the same silly form as its first season with Richter playing a Chicago technical writer who is pals with his fellow office drones, geeky Byron (Jonathan Slavin), boss Jessica (Paget Brewster) and office couple Keith (James Patrick Stuart) and Wendy (Irene Molloy).

In Sunday's premiere, Jessica announces the search for a new employee, preferably a minority. Whoever suggests the person who ultimately gets hired will receive a $3,000 finder's fee.

"Damn, I know an albino who would have been perfect," Byron says.

The episode turns into a funny, smart and insightful take on issues of race and diversity in America as Keith suggests a "one-armed, gay, Native American little person" and Andy inadvertently offends the person who is hired.

The Dec. 8 episode, though not as thought-provoking, is still quite funny. Byron manages to burn his back and hires a prostitute to change the dressings because she's cheaper than a personal nurse. Wendy volunteers to help out and Keith agrees to pitch in.

"We took care of your neighbor's cactus for a week and that wasn't anywhere near as hard as I thought it was going to be," he says.

"Yeah, but we did kill it," Wendy replies. "Remember when you gave it that milkshake?"

It's good to have Andy Richter controlling the universe again, at least for a half-hour each week. I just hope he can extend his reign beyond two short seasons.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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